Pino Pascali by Claudio Abate

“So much more to discover”

Jack Newhouse – August 2011

“United Artists of Italy” is an interesting exhibition of twenty-two of the most famous Italian photographers of the twentieth century, ongoing at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, Canonbury Square.

United Artists of Italy” displays around 90 works almost portraying the best Italian artists of the end of the twentieth century. The show at the Estorick Collection tells the story of the Italian contemporary art scene from the 1960s.

United Artists of Italy” catches the vision and the philosophy of Italian contemporary art from the beginning in the 1960s from Arte Povera to Conceptualism and the New Roman School.

Here is the intriguing point of “United Artists of Italy”. These are famous Italian artists depicting other famous Italian artists. And therefore the title does not say all about the exhibition. There is much more to discover: faces and images of the best Italian art scene, a large group of individuals internationally renowned, merged together by the ability of the best Italian photographers. They are artists’ portraits of other artists.

This rich group of photographs has been assembled over many years by Massimo Minini. He is born in Vallecamonica, near Brescia. From 1964 to 1968 he studied law but he was drawn to a career in art. He opened his own contemporary gallery in Brescia in 1973.

The personal interest of Minini about this subject was nurtured by his constant connections with the photographers. The latter, in fact, welcomed and supported the project. It was conceived as an international exhibition created literally digging into archives, boxes, films and files.

The outcome is “United Artists of Italy” a unique anthology of Italian photographer’s portraits. At the beginning the idea was to make use of portraits of artists only. But the project became wider and therefore included also images of writers – Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italo Calvino and Alberto Moravia – important gallery owners – Lucio Amelio and Leo Castelli – together with a number of foreign artists. Some artists like Maurizio Cattelan, Pino Pascali, Lucio Fontana, Mario Merz or Jannis Kounellis are depicted together with their works.

Alighiero Boetti and Massimo Minini by Giorgio Colombo

United Artists of Italy” shows a cross-section of Italian photography spanning more than thirty years, revealing the extraordinary skills of the photographers while at the same time paying homage to the great artists who are the subjects. The photographs present a history of contemporary art and artists not through their art works but through faces, poses and expressions. The most striking portraits capture the spirit of the times but this is more than just a simple collection of chronological images. Different facets of the artists’ characters are revealed by different photographers. For example, Aurelio Amendola’s portrait of De Chirico reveals an elderly, passive and bemused man, while Claudio Abate’s image of Pino Pascali captures the artist in playful mood, engaging with his own work. At other times, photographers train their lenses on one another – as in Berengo Gardin’s candid study of Ugo Mulas, or Mario Dondero’s intimate portrait of Elisabetta Catalano.

The Estorick Collection exhibition focuses entirely on the portraits of Italians. They are by 22 photographers active since the 1960s: Claudio Abate, Aurelio Amendola, Gabriele Basilico, Sandro Becchetti, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Elisabetta Catalano, Giorgio Colombo, Mario Cresci, Mario Dondero, Federico Garolla, Luigi Ghirri, Mario Giacomelli, Gianfranco Gorgoni, Mimmo Jodice, Nanda Lanfranco, Uliano Lucas, Attilio Maranzano, Nino Migliori, Ugo Mulas, Paolo Mussat Sartor, Paolo Pellion and Ferdinando Scianna.

“Italian photography presents itself here in all of its glory” writes Minini of United Artists of Italy “No other nation has produced such a wide range of great photographers who have not only portrayed but also worked on the same level as the artists of their generation.”

This London show, curated by Gabriele Magnani, is the fifth venue in a European tour, the collection having previously been exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint Etienne; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels; Fondazione Stelline, Milan, and the Biennial of Photography, Amsterdam.

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, Northampton Lodge 39A, Canonbury Square, London, N1 2AN, showing from 22nd June 2011 until 4th September 2011.